"Does any company make a wireless sensor that is polled for assurance? Everything I'm seeing only has the sensor sending a signal during a change of state. If the wireless sensors were polled, I would expect a much shorter battery life - however the added assurance of a valid sensor would make up for that. Also, a polled sensor could report its current battery status also. In the starting days of wireless alarms it was the control box that was wireless for reporting and that radio net was polled once every 15 minutes to check for integrity of the system... that sounds like something needed here."
Response from Frontpoint
Hello, Brian, and thanks for your question. It’s a good one. What you are describing is commonly known in the electronic security industry as “supervised wireless:” that means that the control panel expects to receive a signal from each wireless sensor on a regular basis. When a sensor does not “report in” during a pre-determined window, then the control unit registers this failure to communicate as a potential malfunction, and it can be reported to the monitoring center and/or alarm system user.
It just happens that the wireless sensors used by Frontpoint work in exactly the way you describe and have done so since roughly 1980. The company that really perfected wireless sensor technology was ITI, and I started using their equipment in 1989, just after I entered the alarm industry. ITI (later operating as GE Security) really wrote the book on wireless alarm technology, and even today the other equipment companies are still trying to catch up.
How wireless sensors communicate
Each GE Security wireless sensor communicates over a former military frequency and has a unique “transmitter identity” that is programmed into the alarm control unit. That way your GE Security sensors are not recognized by your neighbor’s GE Security system, but only by yours, and vice versa. Each wireless sensor than has the ability to communicate an actual alarm condition, or a tamper event, or even a low battery – and also sends regular signals to the control unit. In fact, each wireless sensor sends a signal roughly every hour, and the alarm control unit logs a “malfunction” if no signal is received after a certain duration. That way you know if a sensor has been removed, or if there is some other problem – but these sensors are remarkably stable and reliable, which is one of the reasons Frontpoint chose them in the first place.
Wireless sensor battery life
All this supervisory activity does affect sensor battery life, but it’s important that a wireless system be just as reliable as a hard-wired one. Wireless sensors are actually used more than hard-wired sensors, since they are easier to install, move, and troubleshoot. And, GE Security has continued to improve battery utilization, so that today many sensor batteries will last over five years – and then still send you a message so you have plenty of time to replace them, which is easy. In fact, your Frontpoint system will even announce any low sensor batteries to you.
Here’s a little background on GE Security. The original company (ITI) was purchased by a larger company (Interlogix), and that larger company was in turn purchased by GE Security. Recently GE sold its security products division to United Technologies, a global manufacturer who makes Carrier air conditioners, Otis elevators, and Pratt & Whitney jet engines, to name a few of their brands. United Technologies (UTC) has changed the security products division name back to Interlogix, but still owns rights to the GE Security brand, which is why you still see GE on our web site. UTC has committed significant resources to consistent quality and new sensor enhancements, and Frontpoint is more committed than ever to this technology.
Wireless sensor recap
You are correct that polling of the alarm control unit itself has been a part of alarm system technology – and still is. With a Frontpoint system, you have safest system you can get, since every control unit comes with a built in digital cellular radio. No phone line needed, and no phone line for a burglar to cut. And even that radio is periodically “pinged” by Alarm.com, our interactive monitoring technology partner, for the highest level of reliability you can find.
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